Florida Conservation Groups to Sue EPA over Manatee Deaths

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The Indian River Neighborhood Association, in its advocacy for protection of Indian River County resources, has been monitoring the State’s BMAP* program of TMDL** requirements and concluded it was inadequate to do the job of improving Florida’s polluted waterways. We are several years and millions of dollars into that program and, unfortunately, have not seen any regrowth of seagrass in the IRL. Even though the Marine Resource Council’s latest annual lagoon report shows improvement in water quality, there still is no seagrass growth. Obviously, we are not sufficiently addressing the problem.

On December 20th three conservation groups signed an intent to sue the Federal Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts for failing to protect manatees from water pollution in Florida. Earth Justice attorneys will represent the Defenders of Wildlife, Save the Manatee Club and Center for Biological Diversity in their pending suit. They have tasked the EPA to reinitiate consultation with the Fish & Wildlife Service to re-assess water quality standards. The death of over 1000 manatees in our state, the majority of which occurred in the IRL, has spurred this action and raised awareness, not only in our state but across the country, to the water pollution problems in the State of Florida…especially those causing the death of the manatees.

They are the nitrogen and phosphorous and a number of other contaminants coming from fertilizer, inadequate waste water treatment, leaking septics and stormwater runoff. These pollutants are well known to those of us in Indian River County who have been educating our residents to the dire health of our lagoon and urging our State and local lawmakers for legislation that will prevent further pollution. These pollutants feed the algae blooms that cloud the water preventing needed sunlight from reaching the seagrass beds. Seagrass is a nursery for juvenile marine life, a filter and co2 absorbent as well as the mainstay of the manatee’s diet.

We are sending letters of endorsement to the three conservation groups and Earth Justice as they task the U.S. Government Environmental Protection agency for stronger regulations and enforcement of existing regulations governing the reduction of nutrient pollution in Florida waters. All are non-profit organizations that will need moral and financial support to succeed. It’s a bold step in the right direction and a necessary action; something we have contemplated for many years as the only way to garner significant attention to the State’s water pollution problems. Stay tuned. The future of Florida’s waterways is at stake.

Please contact these organizations for more information. Earth Justice. Defenders of Wildlife. Save the Manatee Club. The Center for Biological Diversity.

*BMAP (Basin Management Action Plan) Overall plan for pollution reduction in designated water basin
**TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) Pounds of Nitrogen and Phosphorous allowed to enter water body